JACKI LYDEN, host:

Work never seems to end for one musical innovator in Brooklyn.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. RANJIT BHATNAGAR (Sound Artist): Hi. My name is Ranjit Bhatnagar. I'm here in my workshop/apartment. I decided that every day during the month of February, I was going to try to make a new, homemade instrument.

LYDEN: That's right, 28 days, 28 homemade musical instruments. You're listening to what Ranjit calls an electric kalimba, or thumb piano. He made this on Day 17. It's four, tiny, steel tines from a hardware store; a wooden plank; and a homemade magnetic pickup.

Mr. BHATNAGAR: The same kind you would find in an electric guitar, only made by hand and much, much lower quality, and this is what it sounds like plugged in.

(Soundbite of music)

LYDEN: Ranjit Bhatnagar makes most of his instruments as found items - no fancy craftsmanship here. If he spots something in the trash on his walk home, that could be his next instrument.

Take what he calls a garden gramophone. It's a series of wispy twigs, a fat, metal needle, and a 45-RPM record. Spin the record with your finger, and otherworldly mutations pour out through a speaker. And then there's this 10-foot tall monstrosity.

Mr. BHATNAGAR: This is a big base made out of a cardboard box, and a giant stick that I found in the park.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BHATNAGAR: And it fell apart as we were playing it, which is an occupational hazard with my kind of instruments.

LYDEN: So it goes. Ranjit's workshop has gradually overtaken his modestly sized apartment. Branches and wire and batteries and hardware clutter every surface. You can't move without bumping into an instrument in waiting. Only its creator could actually make sense of this jumble.

Mr. BHATNAGAR: Another interesting thing here is, I've got a music box here, the kind where you turn the little crank to make it play.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BHATNAGAR: But what I discovered just messing around is that if I take a really strong magnet and hold it up to the music box, it attracts the little tines inside, and it really messes with the sound in an interesting way.

(Soundbite of music)

LYDEN: Ranjit Bhatnagar is about to put his instruments to the test before a live audience. We're here at Barbez(ph), a club in Brooklyn's trendy Park Slope neighborhood. It's Wednesday night, and tell me about what we're going to see tonight. You're going to play with your friends, the Glass Bees - Jason(ph) and Andrea(ph) and Chris(ph). And have you guys rehearsed together or this is all improv?

Mr. BHATNAGAR: It's a little bit of each. We've had two rehearsals over at my little apartment. For each set, we have certain instruments that we each play, and then it's a mix of what we've practiced before and improvisation.

LYDEN: What inspires you to take on this challenge particularly, the handmade, found instrument?

Mr. BHATNAGAR: As a sound artist, I'm interested in objects that make sounds. And I wouldn't claim to be anything like a professional instrument maker. I'm playing around. I'm exploring really simple instruments, and I'm learning a whole lot about how these things work while I do it.

LYDEN: Are you trained as a designer or a musician or self-taught?

Mr. BHATNAGAR: Pretty much self-taught. My background is in engineering, and I spent most of my life working, doing computer programming and computer graphics and things like that. And lately, I've been branching out, I guess.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LYDEN: What was the most difficult to make, to create?

Mr. BHATNAGAR: I guess it was this automatic electric guitar here, which has various electromechanical parts, a little keyboard for playing it. And really, it's got a lot of moving parts. Would you like me to make it go?

LYDEN: Yeah.

(Soundbite of music)

LYDEN: I'm having two thoughts. One is, that's awesome, and the second thought is, do you have an apartment where the people downstairs can hear you - or not?

Mr. BHATNAGAR: I do have neighbors upstairs and downstairs, and I can hear them. So I'm pretty sure they can hear me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BHATNAGAR: I try my best to be courteous, but because of my sleep schedule and my work schedule, I sometimes find myself playing these instruments at 2 in the morning. I suddenly come to my senses, and I think, wait, I'd better stop until tomorrow.

LYDEN: So what do you want us, your audience, to take away from tonight's show?

Mr. BHATNAGAR: Well, one, I really hope that they enjoy the sounds we make, but also I would really like to encourage people to experiment. For a long time, I thought that there was no place for me in music because I have no formal training.

And I found that there's a space for experimenting, for making my own music. And I really want to encourage everybody to get out there, make some instruments, make some sounds, and maybe what they make will be beautiful, maybe it's not. You should enjoy it either way.

LYDEN: Ranjit Bhatnagar spent the month of February handcrafting a different musical instrument each and every day. He and his friends, the Glass Bees, are here at Club Barbez in Brooklyn to play them before a rapt audience.

Okay, I want to thank everyone very, very much.

Mr. BHATNAGAR: Thank you.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of music)

LYDEN: Our visit with Ranjit Bhatnagar was recorded by Josh Rogesson(ph) and produced by Phil Harrow(ph). To get a look at a few of these instruments, like the kelp horn or the garden gramophone, go to our Web site, npr.org.

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